Teaching Mathematics Using Information Communications Technology

Author(s) Oldknow A. & Taylor R.
Publisher Continuum
Published 2003
Price 19.99
ISBN 0826470599
Reviewed by Mr Philip Bamber
Liverpool Hope University
Review published 11 July 2006

This second edition is an updated and revised version of a similar title, first published in the year 2000. A changed title from Teaching Mathematics with ICT to Teaching Mathematics using ICT is appropriate and avoids ambiguity of purpose. The 2 authors have extensive experience in the field of ICT used to enhance teaching and learning of mathematics. Their enthusiasm permeates through this book which draws on their own expertise, as well as colleagues with whom they have worked.

The core of the book ambitiously aims to provide a comprehensive overview of ICT resources that are and will become available to mathematics teachers, make explicit links to the mathematics school curriculum and offer suggestions to support meeting the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) expected outcomes for the use of ICT by teachers of mathematics.

In doing so, the authors make few assumptions about the technical competency of the reader. All activities described are provided on an accompanying CD-ROM which has been compiled by special arrangement with Chartwell-Yorke, Texas Instruments and the Mathematical Association (MA).

The book contains 5 chapters, with 2 ‘bridges’. A clear structure makes it easy to follow. The first chapter ‘What ICT is there to use?’ reviews a broad range of hard and software, encouraging the reader to develop proficiency through attempting a series of interesting and meaningful activities. This is an effective approach. Training and in-service teachers can work selectively through these to gain familiarity or develop already established skills, while curriculum leaders can assess for themselves the potential roles different software may have.

This range covers standard packages such as Geometer’s Sketchpad, Cabri Geometry II, Derive, Autograph and Fathom. An interesting inclusion is TI Interactive, which incorporates features of a mathematical word processor, web-browser and spreadsheet with computation, graphing and statistical features similar to those found on a graphical calculator. This is a new generation of software for mathematical communication and computation. Unfortunately, the software on the CD ROM only operates for a 30 day trial period.

The authors do however express their awareness of budget constraints; for example a place is found for exploring powerful tools which can be accessed for free over the internet, such as LOGO. Elsewhere, Adrian Oldknow has hypothesised that it would take the mathematics education community the next 20 years to fully maximise the potential of the ICT hard and software currently available without need to adopt future innovations. This approach is demonstrated here with further advocacy for hand held devices such as ‘old favourites’ like graphical calculators - whose usefulness is still yet to be reflected in established practice in the classroom.

It is, however, worth noting that since publication the MA has already developed and made freely available powerful ICT toolkits to further enhance mathematical learning. These include a ‘Dynamic number line’, a ‘Co-ordinates and graphing’ pack and ‘Charting and 2D shape creation’ tools which would all certainly find a home here. These all won awards at the 2006 BETT show, the UK’s prestigious educational technologies exhibition.

The second chapter interrogates the school mathematics curriculum to explore aspects that would benefit from the use of ICT. The chapter is divided into sections on number and algebra, geometry and trigonometry, statistics and modelling, and more briefly; more advanced mathematics and cross-curricular work. Each section exemplifies well the authors’ own philosophy for the use of ICT in subject teaching. In essence this is that new technology should only be used if it enhances and develops the quality of teaching and learning; as a tool to develop mathematical understanding. They expand on this with 3 key principles that help form the first bridge preceding this chapter.

Although this chapter can feel overwhelming, it is broken down by subject area, encouraging the less experienced to return whenever needed. It was in this chapter though that I became aware that the significant number of black and white screen dumps found on many pages, of sometimes-inadequate resolution, could detract from quality content.

In many cases the examples used here serve to enrich the current curriculum, such as the modelling of physical problems using data logging and the use of spreadsheets. Digitise Image is a fascinating freely available program which allows pupils to fit suitable curves to digital images, such as the one demonstrated here of Sydney harbour bridge. This must be run in conjunction with Excel but is much more effective with TI Interactive.

The second bridge analyses issues about ICT use in the TTA (which has since been renamed the Teacher Development Agency) case studies that were introduced in the first bridge. This is followed by a presentation of the TTA’s expected outcomes for the training in the use of ICT in secondary mathematics.

Chapter 3 builds on this, dissecting a series of case studies to help maths teachers plan for effective planning, learning, teaching and assessment using ICT, as well as examining their own knowledge and understanding of, and competence with, ICT. This is indeed helpful for students in Initial Teacher Education and their tutors, as well as providing a framework for structuring in-service training. This section, I feel, asks pre and in-service mathematics teachers to reflect on the effectiveness of doing the ‘cooking’ of the mathematics and lesson preparation themselves and challenges them to resist simply ‘heating’ up the work of others. Of course the use of ICT can help save precious time, yet the authors seem to recognise the inherent danger of classroom practitioners becoming ‘resource-full’ as opposed to ‘resourceful’

Chapters 4 and 5 are much shorter. They consider the desirability, inevitability and public policy that have led to ICT being integrated into mathematics teaching, as well questioning where this may all lead. It is appropriate that the authors question the rationale of the current curriculum in the light of the developments they have explored. The Smith report into post-14 Mathematics Education, published in February 2004, has contributed more recently to this debate. Although these sections feel brief, there is a comprehensive list of further reading that is useful for anyone wishing to undertake any further academic work at post graduate or Masters level for their own professional development.

This book is an accessible, thorough and insightful contribution on the various levels outlined above. I highly recommend it.